El punk Eagleton
Hace poco comenté la pelea que se ha iniciado entre Terry Eagleton y Martin Amis. Entonces hablé algo sobre el marxismo de Eagleton y su lectura ideológica de la literatura británica contemporánea. Gustavo Faverón, en su blog "Puente aéreo", hizo entonces una muy pertinente acotación: "Que alguien crea en el análisis marxista como método crítico y en el marxismo en general como teoría política, no quiere decir que esa persona crea que los narradores deban ser marxistas ni mucho menos que deban escribir en función de esa identidad ideológica". Hoy he leído un comentario sobre esta pelea en el Times que se centra en la figura de Terry Eagleton, a quien califican como un "punk" de la crítica literaria, y que me gustaría enlazar para conocer un poco más el perfil de este polemista mayor de la literatura británica.
Dice la nota: "Like Forrest Gump, he seems to have been present at all the key academic phases of the past 40 years. A third-generation Irish immigrant, he was born in Salford, near Manchester, into a family that was poor and “socially sophisticated enough to be conscious of their inferiority”. Both his grandfathers had been employed in the gasworks and his father, after winning a grammar school place, opted to work in heavy engineering. Asthmatic and the only boy with a coat at primary school, Eagleton was bullied at a grammar school run by the De La Salle brotherhood and served as an altar boy at the local Carmelite convent, with thoughts of becoming a priest. The Catholic bishop, he recalled in his 2001 memoir The Gatekeeper, had “the walk of a navvy and the face of a wino”. His schoolfellows were “a spindly, stunted, hollow-chested crew, like a chorus line from Les Misérables”. He won a scholarship to Cambridge despite being yanked out of the entrance exams with the news that his father had died. “I was furious,” he said. “What my father would have wanted was for me to stay on and take the exams.” He arrived at Cambridge as a committed socialist and a member of CND. Although Trinity was a rich college, Eagleton “fitted it like a glove”, according to a contemporary.
While on a visit to Manchester during his first year as an undergraduate, he met Rosemary Galpin, a state-registered nurse working as a health visitor. They married in 1966 and had two children, Dominic and Daniel. The couple divorced in 1976 and he then embarked on a 10-year relationship with Toril Moi, a Norwegian feminist critic. In 1997 he married Willa Murphy, an American academic, with whom he had a son, Oliver. As an undergraduate Eagleton came under the influence of the leading left-wing critic Raymond Williams, who offered him a research fellowship at Jesus College. Insecure intellectually, he became a heavy drinker before stopping 13 years ago. (“Giving up smoking was much more difficult.”) At high table he encountered only “doddering, quasi-fascistic clergymen, who talked of Gladstone’s Irish home rule bill as though it could still be headed off”. So he took a job at Oxford, which was “rather like taking refuge from insincerity in Hollywood”. It took 22 years at Oxford until he was deemed safe. “My strategy for survival was to put distance between myself and the Oxford establishment.” Whereas Eagleton preferred to focus on the relationship between literature and the culture from which it grows, English teaching at Oxford had been based on textual analysis. His weekly seminars, a focus for dissidents, increased suspicions. “They thought it was a threat to all they held precious. But I think the students I taught found it enormously enriching.” One recalled: “He was very charismatic and used to bang on about the class war. He was embedded in a previous age.” Tariq Ali, a friend of more than 30 years, says he led a double existence. “He was one of the lads in the pub with the comrades and was wonderfully good at singing and writing songs. But then he’d go off and be a cult literary theorist. To his credit, he always tried to bring his worlds together.” His star rose throughout the 1970s. “The left was in the ascendant and there was a sense we might break through,” he believed. The publication in 1983 of his most famous book, Literary Theory: An Introduction, made him an international star. Finally in 1991 the dons relented and made him Warton professor of English literature in succession to John Bayley. Typically, his enemies noted, he slagged off Bayley in his inaugural lecture. Eagleton used to be known as the closest thing to the Sex Pistols in British scholarship. With his attack on Amis he proves he can still spit with the best of them".